Can Sean Manaea Pass Sonny Gray as Oakland Athletics Ace?

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Sonny Gray might be a lot more like his last name than first when the 2017 season begins. The Oakland Athletics pitcher is in danger of losing a rather hollowed title: ace. His biggest competition is Sean Manaea, a big left-handed rookie who last year went 7-9 with a 3.86 ERA in 24 starts and 1 relief appearance over 144.2 innings.

Much like Gray, Manaea comes with some hype. He was a first round pick in the 2013 supplemental round. Perhaps even greater in retrospect, he was one of the guys traded to the Athletics by the Kansas City Royals for Ben Zobrist. As we know now, Zobrist was an important piece in the Royals’ championship run of 2015.

Is 2017 the season where Sean Manaea passes Sonny Gray as the Oakland Athletics ace?
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

After what Gray did last year--or didn't do--it's possible we see him dethroned as number one starter in Oakland. I think he'll rebound, but this won't prevent Manaea from pitching better. Listed at 6’5 245 lbs, size is already on his side.

Per RotoChamp and their statistical predictions for next year, Manaea will match Gray with a 3.84 ERA. They’ll tie with a team leading 11 wins with Manaea striking out 163 in 185 innings compared to Gray who will fan 162 in 199 innings of work. Manaea is also predicted to have a better WHIP at 1.19 compared to Gray’s projected 1.25.

Predictions for the coming season a week before the winter meetings are really anyone’s guess. However, are we really foolish to think the chance that they swap spots in the rotation is very much possible?

Houston Astros Trade Block: Colin Moran

The Houston Astros are very much looking to add to the MLB roster this offseason. Because of this, their trade block contains the names of many minor league players including third baseman Colin Moran. A somewhat underrated trade chip, Moran is the definition of someone the Astros should deal in order to improve the 2017 team.

Moran was a 6th overall draft pick in 2013 by the Miami Marlins. He has been a pretty steady hitter throughout his professional career with a nice batting average as the biggest bonus. Moran doesn’t hit with much power or provide significant speed. Probably a guy to hit in the bottom of the order, he has the potential to keep rallies going and break his team out of a slump with base hits.

Will the Houston Astros trade Colin Moran?

The obvious reason why the Astros should want to move on from Moran is positional based. While they have lots of outfield options and should consider dealing one of them or a pitching prospect for the sake of the current team, Moran is blocked in the most obvious way. Alex Bregman’s spot on the Astros as the starting third baseman will prevent Moran from receiving more than a minimal amount of playing time. Yulieski Gurriel and his big contract will also add another option for the Astros before Moran.

Since he didn’t hit particularly well last year in Triple-A, and was incredibly lost with the Astros late in the year after his call-up, I don’t see any chance at Moran starting the year in the MLB. The Astros just don’t have room for him even if the plan was to use him at first base; a position he has barely played professionally.

Since the Astros also do have J.D. Davis in the minor leagues coming up as a third baseman it makes Moran even more expendable. Any team in need of young third base help would greatly benefit from adding him in as part of the package. 

Oakland Athletics Trade Rumors: Stephen Vogt, Sonny Gray

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I don’t expect too much movement at all from the Oakland Athletics this offseason. Most of their trade chips have already been dealt and the team is still trying to find an identity. Although someone like Jed Lowrie or Khris Davis could prove valuable to another franchise, I think injuries for the former and a low salary for the latter will keep them in Oakland at least for opening day.

Instead, the two guys at the top of the trade rumors list appear to be catcher Stephen Vogt and starting pitcher Sonny Gray. We’ve heard these names mentioned plenty over the last two years. Yet, even with all of the phone calls, they remain in the booger green and puke yellow Athletics’ uniforms.

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Vogt’s trade value peaked in 2015 when he had an amazing first half and looked like he was possibly going to lead the league in RBIs. Then he hit a wall in the second half and finished with okay totals. As a catcher, though, his offensive statistics are superior to most. Vogt saw his batting average dip 10 points last year from 2015. Worse was his OBP falling from .341 to .305. Vogt did, however, nearly match his total bases in only 21 more plate appearances. The fact that he’s a catcher in a league where hitting below .250 and getting on base at a .300 clip is acceptable makes him a desirable piece no matter how far he continues to fall.

On the same tangent of guys who had poor 2016 seasons, nobody disappointed more than Gray. The ace of Oakland made 22 starts and finished with a 5-11 record. Worse, perhaps, was his 5.69 ERA. An example of how bad Gray was, he allowed only 1 less run than he did in 2014 when he had about 100 more innings more to surrender them. The 18 home runs allowed in 117 innings was about double his career average too as Gray hurt his value tremendously with the terrible year. Nevertheless, a 27-year-old with one bad season and three really good ones prior is worth taking a look at. His stock is low at the moment so if anyone wanted to sweep him away from Oakland at even a slight bargain, now is the time.

I, again, do not expect too many trades from the Athletics this offseason. They’ve sold a lot in the past two seasons. Their strategy, as it always seems to be, is to only trade when a contract is about to end. Trading Vogt or Gray will only happen for any overpayment of their services.